The Electoral Commission has officially recognised the formation of the Newport Independents Party / Plaid Annibynol Casnewydd. The party is now on the Great Britain register of political parties in Wales in a move that the party describes as a ‘historic moment that will change the face of local authority politics’.
While figures are still being finalised, the Newport Independents Party hopes to stand 15 candidates at the forthcoming local council elections in May. If the party secures 11 seats it will replace the Conservatives as the second largest group within the council.
Speaking about the achievement, founding member Kevin Whitehead, who represents the Bettws ward of the city said “This is truly a historic moment for local authority politics.
“There is a growing appreciation of independent council representatives both here in Newport and across the UK, and a desire for more independence from stale party politics. However, that appreciation is also tempered by a belief that independent councillors traditionally have very little influence within council.
“That has unfortunately historically been true as the practical reality is that councils are skewed in favour of political parties, and against independents.
“When I became a councillor five years ago I quickly realised that independent councillors cannot be appointed to any groups or committees within council. On the day of the swearing in ceremony I stopped proceedings to ask the Law and Standards officer whether I could form a group with other independent councillors. He had a quick conversation with the Chief Executive and agreed that I could. That move allowed us to appoint each other to groups and committees within council, and was the genesis of the Newport Independents Party that has been officially recognised today.
“Forming the independent group has allowed our councillors to be appointed to a number of groups including the Learning, Caring and Leisure committee, the Licensing committee, Community Planning, and Streetscene committee. So while we are truly independent, we certainly do have influence.”
The fundamental distinction between the Newport Independents Party and other parties is that it does not operate a whip and includes councillors, candidates and members from across the political spectrum. This allows their councillors freedom to truly represent their wards in the way their electorate wants.
Newport Independents Party member Chris Evans has represented the Rogerstone ward since 2012, initially as a Labour party member. He became independent in 2016 and joined the independent group at the council. “Newport Independent Party members, candidates or councillors aren’t obliged to put the party first, as is the case with other political parties. This is very important. From the perspective of the wards and voters it truly offers a ‘best-of-both-worlds’ alternative of independence and influence.
“Newport, like many local authorities, has been stifled for too long by the whip of party politics that puts Westminster and the interests of national parties over the interests of local communities. We are set to change that and shake up the Labour and Conservative Cosy Club that believes it is immovable.
“Feedback from communities has shown that we are doing the right thing. We are also getting a lot of interest from councillors and members of other political parties who are clearly fed up of being hand-tied by their parties and are not allowed to represent their wards in a way their consciences tell them they should. The Newport Independents Party will welcome anybody who feels this way.
“We have a lot of very talented people in our ranks and we are confident that the party will grow and go from strength to strength. We see this as a key moment in the long-term challenge of removing national party politics from local authority, where it has no place.”
According to figures provided by the Head of the Independent Group Office of the Local Government Association, there are approximately 2500 LGA Independent Group councillors across England and Wales. The number of councils either controlled by a member of the group in full, or in part where there is no overall control is 26 in England (three are fully independent led, the rest are no overall control) and eight in Wales (two are fully led by independents).
The Newport Independents Party received confirmation from the Electoral Commission on Friday 17th March 2017.
Issue date: Monday 20th March 2017